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10 Rules for Brilliant Women

By September 17, 2010 54 Comments

I coach brilliant women, lots of them. Dedicated, talented, brilliant women.
Most of the time, they don’t know their brilliance. They are certain they “aren’t ready” to take on that next bigger role. They are more attuned to the ways they aren’t qualified than to the ways that they are. They are waiting for someone to validate, promote or discover them. Sound familiar?
It’s time to step up, brilliant women. Here are ten principles for owning your brilliance and bringing it to the world:
1. Make a pact. No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.
2. Imagine it. What does a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park life look like for you? What is the career that seems so incredible you think it’s almost criminal to have it? What is the dream you don’t allow yourself to even consider because it seems too unrealistic, frivolous, or insane? Start envisioning it. That’s the beginning of having it.
3. Gasp. Start doing things that make you gasp and get the adrenalin flowing. Ask yourself, “What’s the gasp-level action here?” Your fears and a tough inner critic will chatter in your head. That’s normal, and just fine. When you hear that repetitive, irrational, mean inner critic, name it for what it is, and remember, it’s just a fearful liar, trying to protect you from any real or seeming risks. Go for the gasps and learn how false your inner critic’s narrative really is, and how conquerable your fears.
4. Get a thick skin. If you take risks, sometimes you’ll get a standing ovation, and sometimes, people will throw tomatoes. Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics? Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as “a nice person.”
5. Be an arrogant idiot. Of course I know you won’t, because you never could. But please, just be a little more of an arrogant idiot. You know those guys around the office who share their opinions without thinking, who rally everyone around their big, (often unformed) ideas? Be more like them. Even if just a bit. You can afford to move a few inches in that direction.
6. Question the voice that says “I’m not ready yet.” I know, I know. Because you are so brilliant and have such high standards, you see every way that you could be more qualified. You notice every part of your idea that is not perfected yet. While you are waiting to be ready, gathering more experience, sitting on your ideas, our friends referenced in rule five are being anointed industry visionaries, getting raises, and seeing their ideas come to life in the world. They are no more ready than you, and perhaps less. Jump in the sandbox now, and start playing full out. Find out just how ready you are.
7. Don’t wait for your Oscar. Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)
8. Filter advice. Most brilliant women are humble and open to guidance. We want to gather feedback and advice. Fine, but recognize that some people won’t understand what you are up to (often because you are saying something new and ahead of your time). Some people will find you to be not their cup of tea. Some will feel threatened. Some people will want to do with your idea only what is interesting or helpful to them. So interpret feedback carefully. Test advice and evaluate the results, rather than following it wholesale.
9. Recover and restore. If you start doing the things that make you gasp, doing what you don’t quite feel ready to do, and being more of an arrogant idiot, you are going to be stretching out of our comfort zone–a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken. Watch your tank to see how much risk-taking juice you have available to you. When it’s running low, stop, recover and restore.
10. Let other women know they are brilliant. Let them know what kind of brilliance you see, and why it’s so special. Call them into greater leadership and action. Let them know that they are ready. Watch out for that subtle, probably unconscious thought, “because I had to struggle and suffer on my way up…they should have to too.” Watch out for thinking this will “take” too much time — when the truth is it always has huge, often unexpected returns.
Clear a path by walking it, boldly.
–Tara Sophia Mohr
Tara Mohr is a writer, coach and creator of Wise Living, which offers coaching, and courses for professional and personal fulfillment. Click here to receive her free goals guide, “Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out (To Get What You Really Want).”

Join the discussion 54 Comments

  • Sue Mitchell says:

    Tara, I’m glad to see the one about being an arrogant idiot. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lately I’ve been pushing the envelope on that a bit. I throw something a bit daring out and then wait for repercussions. So far, I haven’t gotten any reactions at all. So that tells me that perhaps what I think is daring is actually ordinary stuff, and I could go further. I wonder where we all got the idea that anything but the most mainstream opinion is somehow risky.

  • Stephanie S. says:

    More wonderful reminders about how to “do your thing”! Thank you! I especially need #4. Criticism can be so difficult and disheartening, and it’s easy to let others’ doubt transform into self-doubt.

  • Beth says:

    Tara, Only a brilliant woman would write this. It is such great list and wonderful reminders. I like that you included #10 because often when we finally decide to take the risk live outside the box it is hard to give ourselves permission to relax into the comfortable place now and then. Thanks for all this.

  • Julie Wise says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for the ideas and reminders, Tara. As I prepare to step out into the world with my new book, I’ll be holding firmly to #4, 5 and 6! I may not feel “ready” but I know my book is. In fact, even the title (Dream Bigger: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease) is a good reminder to me to push myself out of my comfort zone and expand to all I can be. I’ll be checking back often for more of your words of wisdom. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dia says:

    Hi Tara,

    Very nice list. I like your number 2 imagine it. Imagination is everything, without it, we won’t get anywhere. Thanks for sharing

  • Bridget says:

    You’re brilliant! I love this list. Especially, “Don’t wait for your Oscar.”

  • Ann Hutchens says:

    As a person who moved from serving in health care and the ministry to leading my own company I found this to be insightful and helpful. Leadership is not about arrogance but having the confidence to utilize all those gifts and graces within you and I forget that sometimes, especially during this slow economical recovery.

  • Well hello!
    A fabulous brilliant friend sent me this article, and I’m so glad she did. What struck me the most (and keeps echoing in my head) is your phrase to envision making your living doing something you love so much, something so much fun, that it seems almost criminal.

    I know that feeling – I followed my (“crazy”) heart back in 2004 and walked away from full-time medical practice to go live on the beach in Mexico and focus my time on dancing and writing. After a couple of years, I had a thriving flamenco dance company, was performing for and even teaching celebrities, and getting paid more per hour than I had made as a doctor. I also started my coaching business (coaching people across the continent, by phone from my casita in Los Cabos – !), decided to start speaking internationally, and based on my experiences wrote and found a publisher for my new book – “Live a Life You Love, 7 Steps for a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You”.

    I tell you, it was criminal! I was so happy, so fulfilled, and – to a greater degree than I had thought possible – very successful! I spent a lot of time giggling and pinching myself, for years.

    I moved back up north for the last couple of years for a variety of reasons (including being here for the launch of my book)and have been feeling very strongly that it’s time to set my sights on a new level, like you describe.

    Fulfilling my dreams on that scale kind of threw me for a loop for a while, I’m still kind of stunned by it all. It’s time to fully visualize and plan for the next level, which will be even better. THANKS for the reminder!!

    Susan Biali, M.D.
    Wellness Expert, Author, Coach, International Speaker and Flamenco Dancer : ) : ) : )

  • What brilliant, sound, honest advice. It made my morning – thank-you!

  • Wonderful list, Tara! I love it!

  • Ivan says:

    Hi Tara,

    I’m no woman but I’ll like to let you know that I enjoy reading your articles, this one in particular.

    Have a Great Day everyday!

  • Patricia R. says:

    Hi! Tara,

    I am really grateful for your “10 Rules for Brilliant Women” They are so stray forward and realistic, that they are helping me to transform my preset into a better “Come on and do it!” Thank You so much!

  • Tara says:

    Patricia – that is fabulous to hear! Go for it!

  • Tara says:

    Thanks Ivan! So nice to hear that.

  • Tara says:

    Thanks Dani. You do an amazing job of sharing your brilliance with the world and have a lot to teach other young women about that. Would you consider blogging about this at PP? I just think many of these things are such a struggle for young women in particular – and that you’d have a lot of wisdom to share on the topic.

  • Tara says:

    Yay! Love hearing that, Corrine. I’m so glad.

  • Tara says:

    Susan, wow. thank you. what a fabulous story to illustrate that concept of dreaming up – and then going for – a career that seems to indulgent and good to be possible. Love it. I’m honored that this made a difference for you and look forward to connecting more with you.

  • Tara says:

    So beautifully said. Thank you Ann. You are doing sacred work – we’ll all be blessed by your doing it in your full brilliance!

  • Tara says:

    Thank you. Look forward to seeing the bold things you’ll be up to next! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tara says:

    Thanks Dia!

  • Tara says:

    Such an important distinction. Often we/our egos don’t feel ready, but the work that is coming through us calls us forward.
    The world is enriched by your brilliance, keep sharing it widely!

  • Tara says:

    Thanks Beth! I’m so glad this spoke to you. Warmly,t

  • Tara says:

    Yes! I find #4 is really standing out for many women. I’m going to write a whole post about the criticism thing!

  • Tara says:

    Sue, this is such a fabulous point. Thanks for sharing it. That’s just what is so valuable about going out of our comfort zones – we realize how arbitrary they were and how wrong our assumptions. Thanks for sharing this.

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  • Love V. says:

    Thank you for sharing these quality tips! It’s so easy to second guess oneself, and I found these to be very helpful, especially tips 4 & 5.

  • Young Woman in Management says:

    This list really gets you thinking about ways to move past your own chatter so you don’t hold yourself back!

  • Lisa Best says:

    I love and agree with every single point. This article is so motivating. I love envision your life, a career it seems almost criminal to have it. Yes, I am going to do that right now and move forward fearless with speed.

    thank you!

  • Marjory says:

    Lovely Tara, especially like making other women feel brilliant. We are such beautiful mirrors. Thank you

  • Mai Vu says:

    Hi Tara,
    Lovely list. It’s so refreshing. I am so bored with the typical lists that circulate out there. Thanks for offering something brilliant. I am going to feature you on my blog for my female leaders.

    Your piece inspires me to add 2 more items:
    1. Develop exquisite compassion and acceptance skills, especially toward yourself
    2. Don’t Bulk Up! don’t be so strong and masculine that you forget your feminine side. Surrender and soften more, find your feminine wise woman and let her lead.

    I’ll Be Back! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • Barbara Sherman says:

    These are great rules. I’ve been working at my art for um thirty years? more than that, actually, and it’s more than past time to bring it out to the world. That’s where the arrogant idiot comes in. Thank you, Tara.

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  • liv says:

    This is a great list, thanks for underlining how important it is to be generous with other women. Way too often I have had the worst commentaries and attitudes from other ladies. It’s time to change that.

  • casio digital camera says:

    Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m indubitably enjoying your blog and look into the open to late posts.

  • Stephen-David says:

    The souls of those set into “the second sex” by the spirit-artist who designed gender are well served by so many of your cool insights! So are we male critters.. : )
    It is written; The “eternal, perfect realm/sphere/kingdom has BUSTED into the human realm and the GUTSY souls, the FORCEFUL (no gender mentioned) are grabbin-hold of it!” -Yeshua/Jesus. And may all those you serve have the courage to obey the speaking-Spirit of Life! (even in those “be still” times, or when we are called to act WAY contrary to human logic and common sense.) This is a nice discovery -Keep up the good work!

  • Selfish Mom says:

    I don’t know what it is in me – a weird defensiveness – that often makes me run from advice by women for women. I think maybe I assume it’s going to be touchy-feely girl advice. Thank you for giving advice on how to be a strong woman. When my daughter is older I’ll be sharing this with her. And until then I’ll be checking in on it for my own benefit.

  • Susan Silver says:

    Totally get where you are coming from on #7
    Don’t wait for your Oscar. I realized this year that my job search wasn’t going well because I was waiting for someone to hire me to validate my skills. So I invested in myself instead of another resume book. I put those marketing skills to the test working on my own brand and it has been the best thing for my career.

  • Toni says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS. I needed this affirmation. I needed this boost. I stumbled upon your words on Tumblr (it’s been reblogged a lot!) and I’m glad the reblogs linked to your site! Will definitely read more here. For now, I will share your wise words on my blog and link to this blog, knowing even more will be inspired by you.

  • Dia Sobin says:

    As an artist for whom it took almost 40 years to actually publicly declare that she was, indeed, an artist – and apparently I am not unique in this aspect – your list comes not a moment too soon. I have an art blog which is not normally devoted to gender issues, but for your wonderful article I’ve made an exception to my rule and posted a link. Thanks so much!

  • marina says:

    Very wise words! Thank u!

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  • Sevan says:

    I have been very recently doing these stuff without knowing these 10 rules… coz i wanted a radical change! after reading this… i feel great ๐Ÿ˜€ Tara! I really appreciate and admire your perspective ๐Ÿ™‚ expecting more of ur wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dana says:

    Heard you on Broadminded today. As a 54 year old business woman with 20 something daughters, I find this to be the best advise to give to women..young and not so young. I’m passing this advise on to women I know who could use a kick in the pantsuit!

  • Stacey says:

    I enjoyed hearing you on Broadminded today and couldn’t wait to get home to check out your site. I particularly liked the part about questioning our inner voice. I’ve certainly thought a lot about that voice in the past but you really hit the nail on the head. Thanks!

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